Ca. 1960 Del Vecchio Lap Steel

The lap steel has always been an international phenomenon. The idea of playing a guitar on one’s lap with a metal bar probably originated in the American south, but it was largely popularized by Hawaiian musicians and inspired the creation of “Hawaiian-style” instruments across Europe, the Americas, and eventually east Asia. It was a Hawaiian-style guitarist – George Beauchamp – who challenged John Dopyera to create the first resonator guitars and then created one of the first electric guitars, the “frying pan” lap steel.

These two developments clearly had an impact on Angelo Del Vecchio. A native Sicilian, he moved to Brazil in 1900; two years later he founded an eponymous company to build guitars and other instruments. When National resonator guitars became popular, the Del Vecchio company created its own version of a biscuit-bridge resonator known as the Dinâmico. Popularized among North American musicians by Chet Atkins, it remains Del Vecchio’s most well-known product.

However, Del Vecchio has produced a wide range of products over the decades. Many electrified resonators have popped up, as well as the occasional solidbody electric guitar. There is scant information available on them, so dating Del Vecchio instruments can be difficult to impossible. The styling of the electric guitars appears to date them to the 1960s; this lap steel may be from the same period, but it could be earlier as well. The construction is fairly simple: the steel is carved from a single piece of mahogany with a matching cover over the back, plus a Brazilian rosewood fretboard and ivory-colored plastic trim. The scale is about 24 1/8”. Both the bridge design and the slotted headstock show a family resemblance to classical guitars, a staple of the Del Vecchio line. It is likely that the tuner knobs are replacements, but everything else is probably original. The instrument has seen its share of dings and finish wear, but it remains fully functional.